Restoration in Store for the Croydon?

West Philly may soon see the renovation of a long abandoned, old and ornate brick building with an appealing high-arched front-door and a column-like use of stone at 49th & Locust Sts. Developers are set to meet with neighbors of the Walnut Hill Community Association and the Garden Court Family Association on Monday December 5, at 7pm at Philadelphia Community College, located at 48th and Chestnut Sts. The meeting is sponsored by the office of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell.

Beautiful building in need of some help

In 2010, developers appeared before the WHCA with a plan to renovate the building into 127 one-bedroom market-rate rental units. But those developers lacked both adequate financing and actual plans, and talked more on a conceptual level, according to Marty Cabry, who works on zoning issues for Blackwell’s office. They talked about perhaps including ground-floor commercial space or appealing to non-profit organizations who may want to use the building for office space.

“They were all over the place,” Cabry said.

The community was not behind the project and Blackwell turned the developers away.

“Her main thing in all these development projects is to bring the community in and see where they are,” Cabry said.

“The owners just let it go,” said Horace Patterson, WHCA president. “It was hard for them to sell.”

A closer look at the property
Another look

Philly Garden Apartments were the former owners, according to Cabry. Orens Brothers Real Estate, the current owners of the site, have a good local reputation and made a good first impression when they met with Blackwell’s staff and community members early this summer to express their interest in renovating the building, according to Cabry. At the time, they had yet to finalize an agreement of sale. The current proposal will be similar to the previous one in that it includes 100-plus one-bedroom market-rate rental homes.

During its fifteen years of its abandonment, the Croydon has been home to drug use and squatting, the usual suspects often found in abandoned buildings in areas with economic struggles.

“We’re all in favor so far,” said Patterson, referring to the earlier meetings with Oren brothers. “Something needs to be done [there.]”

Looking just across the street at its sister building, Chatham Hall, we can get an idea of what the Croydon could someday become.

Chatham Hall. A glimpse at the future?

–Lou Mancinelli